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Caple: Molitor's, Eck's versatility

Baseball Hall of Fame members

Saturday, July 24
Updated: July 26, 2:10 AM ET
Eck might be more famous for a rare error
By Jim Caple

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Dennis Eckersley is the rare Hall of Famer whose fame may be greater for his few failures than for his many successes. Although he won 197 games, saved 390, threw a no-hitter, won a Cy Young and MVP award, he's often remembered more for giving up one of the most famous home runs in baseball history -- Kirk Gibson's game-winner in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Such is Eckersley's connection to famous home runs that he was even asked this weekend about Ralph Branca, who gave up Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World.

"I'd rather be me than him,'' Eckersley said. "That was a bigger home run than mine. Mine was the first game of the World Series. At least we still had a chance to come back.''

The Gibson home run came with two out in the bottom of the ninth at Dodger Stadium with the Athletics leading 4-3. Eckersley walked Mike Davis and then gave up a two-out homer to Gibson. Eckersley said his teammates wouldn't even look him in the eye after the home run, which has been voted the biggest moment in Los Angeles sports history.

"That's wonderful. I'm thrilled,'' Eckersley said when told the homer was No. 1 in Los Angeles. "I've dealt with that for so long and that was an incredible moment for baseball but it was just a horrible moment for me.

"But to me personally, at the time, there were so many great things happening to me. I had just saved four games in the playoff series against the Red Sox, which meant a great deal to me personally because that's where my career started. When that [Gibson homer] happened, it was devastating and people were like, 'Oh, you poor thing,' but I really didn't feel like a poor thing at all. My life had turned around so much and I was as happy as I could be from where I had come from.

"Maybe it was supposed to happen to me because I could handle it. And I saved a lot of games after it which I'm very proud of, too.''

Eckersley also served up a game-tying home run to Robbie Alomar in Game 4 of the 1992 playoffs, which Oakland wound up losing in six games.

"That home run hurt more for me than Gibson's,'' Eck said. "Maybe it was because I had done it for a couple years by then and my expectations were higher.''

Despite the infamous homers, Eckersley has the last laugh. "If I have to be associated with that game, that's fine, too,'' he said. "Kirk can savor that moment for the rest of his life. I'm in the Hall of Fame -- see ya!''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for